Friday, November 22, 2013

Fix-it Friday: Better than a Snowball

Somewhere along the line we knew someone who knew someone who said that any hay, no matter how rough or old or rained on, it was "Better'n a snowball." Meaning of course, if the cows or other animals in question were hungry enough come winter they'd eat it and be glad they had it.

Anyway, I'd been wanting to post something but the past week just didn't seem like homestead blog material. We did butcher quail and chickens over the weekend, but I didn't want to start this blog off with a bunch of "graphic" pictures about how to butcher chickens. Everything else had been rather bland and "normal" until yesterday I realized we needed a solution for the goats' hay.

We used to only have 2 goats, Oreo and Drama Queen. (Well, Drama's name is actually Sunny, but Drama Queen reflects her personality.) They are Nigerian Dwarf goats, which are essentially miniature dairy goats. The plan was that they could help eat the grass and weeds in the yard around the chicken pens and the garden, and eventually we'd breed and possibly milk them.

Until a couple weeks ago, when I was browsing Craigslist looking for a gate and came across a ridiculously good deal on 5 Nigerian does (females, for the uninitiated.) Well, I love a good deal, and I knew I could always resell some or all of them. I told J and he said I "should totally jump on it!"

The one really stupid thing around here is we dont have a truck. We have a SUV and a trailer, and that combination works for most of our hauling needs. But I wasn't sure that would work for this trip, and it seemed like having a companion to go with me on a Craiglist trip was a better idea. Since J was at work and this was the best time to go get them (and she has a truck) I got my mom to go with me.

She has a (much better) blog too... here is her post about the goats:

So anyway, long story short, we have 7 goats for now. Since several of them are bred, it may be more before its fewer, and going into winter with its lack of sales and green grass is sorta stressing me out.

They've eaten most of the grass and fallen leaves in the yard, so hay is in order. But where to put it? If you just put hay on the ground, they throw it everywhere and trample it, making a huge mess and wasting your work and money. Last year with 2 goats, a little rack that was supposed to hold trashbags under the sink worked. But there was no way that would work with this many.

I contemplated building something, but nothing seemed right and it DID seem too complicated for a mid-week project. Then I got to looking at the "green pen."

The "green pen" is whats left of a really cool chicken pen my dad and I built. It did a great job for my chickens back in the day, but its had a long hard life. It used to look like this:

But almost 8 years of the elements and housing a lot of assorted animals had taken its toll, and when the goats kept jumping on the runs and busted all the lids, J and I cut the runs off and left the houses for possible future use for broody hens or something. (You always need an extra pen!) So now it looks like this:
Kinda sad, huh?

The roof lifts up to provide access inside, and it still stays dry. I started thinking if I just cut holes in the sides, we could put hay inside and the goats could pull it through the holes. So when I got home from work, I went and got one of the jigsaws and started cutting.

(I say one of the jigsaws because J inherited all of his grandfather's tools, and since his grandfather was a woodworker and a flea market junkie, we now have about 2 of everything. And about 800 drill bits.)

This is how you tell around here who did the work on a project. If J does it, its perfect, square, everything is measured 2 and 3 times to be sure its exact... if I did it, it involves lots of zip ties and electrical tape, probably some fence wire and possibly a feed bag, and "looks about right" is a measurement. I can do very nice work, but a lot of what I do is on the fly problem solving so if it works who gives a crap what it looks like. So, that being said, this is what the green pen looks like now!

Brenda, Drama, and Oreo testing the new hay feeder
The holes aren't perfect and they aren't spaced evenly and now the green pen looks like a chicken house and a coon dog box had a baby, but hey, it works! 

And Im thinking, come springtime, I'll figure out a way to tack up some hardware cloth inside and block the holes and it can be a pen again.

Now, we just need to go buy more hay... its always somethin'!

BY THE WAY... if you are interested in building a "green pen" of your own, I sell plans that show how to do just that! (And it doesn't have to be green. I had one customer paint theirs in University of Tennessee orange.) Check this out!